Housing White Paper: fixing the housing crisis?

Article

07 March, 2017

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued a Housing White Paper entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market' setting out the challenges and opportunities in relation to housing.

The paper contains a number of proposals with the Government intending to boost housing supply and in the long term create a more efficient housing market that matches the needs and aspirations of all households.

Through a four step approach, the Government is proposing to deliver a fix to the housing crisis by:

  1. Planning for the right homes in the right places;
  2. Building homes faster;
  3. Diversifying the market; and
  4. Helping people now.

Step 1: Planning for the right homes in the right places

The Government's initial steps proposes to have an ambitious local up to date plan whereby local communities decide where development goes. This localised approach calls for a number of proposals including:

  • Simplifying and more transparency in planning;
  • Honest assessments with regard to needs for new homes;
  • Clarifying what land is available;
  • Making more land available including brownfield sites, regenerating estates, releasing more small and medium sized sites, allowing rural communities to grow and making it easier to build new settlements;
  • Maintaining existing protections for Green Belt;
  • Giving local communities a voice on design to drive up quality;
  • Making better use of land for housing by encouraging higher densities especially in urban areas.

Step 2: Building homes faster

The Government says that building homes faster can be achieved through a number means:

  • Local authorities with planned development to be provided with greater certainty;
  • Boosting local authority capacity and capability to deliver on planning applications;
  • Coordinating Government investment to ensure infrastructure is delivered in the right places at the right time - this is proposed by targeting the £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund;
  • Assisting developers to build more quickly by tacking common delays, as well as holding them to account;
  • Holding public authorities to account through a new housing delivery test;
  • Addressing other factors causing delays such as skills shortage and connection of utilities.

Step 3: Diversifying the market

One of the causes of the current crisis is the insufficient number of houses being build each year with supply not satisfying demand. The Government proposes to increase supply by enabling a greater and to some extent different parties to be involved in house building including:

  • Backing SMEs to grow through the Home Building Fund;
  • Supporting custom build homes through greater access to land and finance and giving people more choice;
  • Brining in new contractors through Accelerated Construction programme to speed up house delivery;
  • Encouraging institutional investors into housing so more homes are built for private rent and encouraging family friendly tenancies;
  • Supporting housing associations and local authorities to build more homes;
  • Boosting productivity and innovation by encouraging modern methods of construction in house building.

Step 4: Helping people now

Whether steps 1-3 will deliver only time will tell. Essentially step 4 looks at the here and now and the Government is proposing to deliver for people in the here and now by:

  • Continuing with support to help people buy through Help to Buy and Starter Homes;
  • Investing through the Affordable Home Programme to help those priced out of the market to buy a decent home;
  • Making renting fairer and providing additional fairness and transparency to leaseholders;
  • Encouraging developments to meet the need of future populations;
  • Improving neighbourhoods by focusing on empty homes and areas with second homes;
  • Supporting those who need help with housing including developing a sustainable and workable approach to funding supported housing;
  • Doing more to support those at risk of homelessness, as well as reducing rough sleeping.

Comment

The Government's plan is an ambitious one. Approaching this issue through a national framework that is to be applied and designed at local level is important to ensure that delivery responds to local needs. Similarly linking it to other priorities is important such as infrastructure, regeneration and diversification of parties involved in investment and housing delivery whether it is institutional investors, SMEs or contractors.

Local authorities and housing associations have been identified as important players in providing solutions. Local authorities clearly have a role whether it is in identifying local needs, at the planning stage, ensuring accountability from developers and making land available.

At the same time housing associations can also be considered a very important partner as many are at the forefront of building new homes, regenerating estates and providing good quality and affordable housing to many who are priced out of the current market whether to rent or buy. Similarly, housing associations are experienced in working with a range of parties' in house delivery including SMEs and to a certain extent institutional investors.

Some housing associations are also at the forefront of using innovation in house building and ensuring sustainable homes and communities are built. Based on their experience in continuing to deliver on house supply, they can be a key partner in the years to come to provide a solution to the current crisis whether it is through being given land to build on, setting up joint ventures for new development or regenerating existing estates.

If you are looking for any more information with regards to our services view our Housing & Regeneration section. You can also contact Lucy Worrall in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01254 222393. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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